GraDoc Conference Papers


“In all works of preservation, restoration and excavation, there should always be precise documentation in the form of analytical and critical reports, illustrated with drawings and photographs”:

Following this general recommendation formulated more than 30 years ago, the documentation of all steps of the conservation process has grown in importance. Nevertheless, a lack of adequate understanding of the purpose and technical requirements of documentation in general (and graphic documentation in particular) has created a sense of uncertainty  amongst conservation professionals, especially with regard to matching the type of documentation and the level of detail to specific project needs.

Some conservation projects seem to be over-documented, accumulating information that is difficult to access and might never be used in the future. In others, the need to document is still not recognized sufficiently or budgeted for. Budgets for cultural heritage conservation are extremely limited and allocated resources must be cost effective.

Evolving computer technologies offer continuously new possibilities of recording and managing information and increasingly require the close co-operation of professionals from disciplines who were not formerly involved in the heritage field, such as documentation and computer specialists.

In recent years, and especially in the field of conservation of mural paintings, a notable amount of experience has been accumulated with regard to the application of innovative documentation

systems. This experience has never been properly evaluated and professionals in charge of these projects have not met sufficiently.

These are some aspects of the context in which ICCROM decided to include a research seminar dedicated to these issues in its biennial programme for 1998-99.

Within the Organization, the seminar was managed by SURF — a framework programme for all ICCROM activities in the field of conservation of architectural surfaces, including mural paintings, mosaics, stone, historic facades and rock-art. ICCROM’s longstanding experience with training in this field, especially with the Course on the Conservation of Mural Paintings (MPC),2 as well as discussions, participants’ surveys and direct field work on recent editions of this course and the input and encouragement of former participants, were decisive elements for the development of GraDoc.

The project development

The first step in the project development was a bibliographic research to collect and evaluate relevant literature and existing guidelines on this theme, the results of which are published here.’ It appears that the part dedicated to documentation in the standard work Conservation of Wall Paintings, by Laura and Paolo Mora and Paul Philippot, 4 continues to be the most widely observed ‘guideline’ in this specialized field of cultural heritage conservation.

A second result of this research was the identification of institutions and individuals that might be willing to share their experience and expertise and become potential contributors to the seminar.

In late 1998, a consortium of eight organizations was established with an agreement to share responsibility for the development and implementation of the project, with ICCROM in a co-ordinating role. In February 1999, the project partners met in Rome for a two-day planning meeting to define the goals, contents, structure and expected outcomes of the research seminar.

Mural paintings combine image and architecture. It was recognized that documentation in mural painting conservation represents a particularly complex challenge, involving the collection, recording, correlation and interpretation of an extremely broad range of data from the most different areas, both at a macroscopic scale and in relation to the building envelope. The focus on mural paintings was agreed with the purpose of facilitating discussion, but also with the conviction that the results of the seminar would be relevant for the documentation of other types of heritage and in particular of related architectural and decorated surfaces.

Graphic documentation, considered as part of conservation documentation as a whole and within the framework of conservation and management of cultural heritage, was defined as the second focus. It was felt that graphic documentation, albeit only one of the three main components of a complete documentation set (which also includes descriptive and other visual information units) is certainly the most debated aspect.

It was decided to design the seminar as a discussion platform for ‘providers’ (i.e., documentation and/or computer specialists) and ‘users’ (conservator-restorers, conservation managers and related mural-painting specialists) aiming to:

• assess the present situation and evaluate the use of new technologies through the discussion of recent experience, presented by the various professionals involved;

• contribute to clarification of the purpose and the correct use of conservation documentation in general and graphic documentation in particular;

• disseminate results to the international conservation community.

Following the planning meeting, the GraDoc partners applied successfully for additional funding to the European Union under the 1999 Raphael Programme.

The seminar

Twenty-six invited experts from sixteen countries participated in the five-day seminar, held at ICCROM from 16-20 November 1999. The ratio of ‘providers’ to ‘users’ was about one to three, including architects, archaeologists, art-historians, conservator-restorers, conservation scientists, surveyors, computer and documentation specialists and all possible combinations of the above.’ Fifteen other experts, most of them from Italy, joined the group on the fourth day, which was dedicated to the demonstration and evaluation of computer-aided documentation systems and information databases. A selection of these demonstrations can be viewed on the CD-ROM which accompanies this publication.’

The papers, as they are published here, reflect the sequence in which they were presented and the structure of that part of the seminar. All papers express the personal opinion and experience of the authors.

Part I — dedicated to aims, methods and standards of graphic documentation in mural painting conservation — includes eleven papers which cover a very rich and varied range of arguments.

Walter Schudel’s critical remarks stress the limits of documentation and open the floor to a less technically oriented discussion. Francesca Pique, Jurgen Pursche and Konrad Zehnder discuss basic concepts and describe a methodology as well as its adaptation to specific cases.

Sharon Cather addresses the issue of documentation being inadequately recognized and budgeted for. The evolution of documentation practice and the matching of the level of documentation to project needs and available resources is amongst the issues treated by the contributions of Haydee Orea Magaiia and Jun Zheng. Nimal de Silva describes a methodology developed for the documentation of mural paintings, which also involves the production of full-size copies. The documentation of the time factor and the possibility of recording dynamic processes are the main subjects of the contributions by Jacques Neguer and Adrian Heritage.

A set of fourteen papers constitutes part II, which is dedicated to the critical evaluation of digital graphic documentation and databases and to case studies under this topic. Heinz Leitner opens this section with problems faced by a private conservator when entering the field of computer-aided documentation – a personal testimony that introduces the discussion of pros and cons. Elke Behrens describes in detail the standard methodology for graphic documentation developed by her office and draws a comparison between manual and digital approaches.

Gaetano Palumbo’s paper gives a ‘user-friendly’ introduction to the use of CAD and GIS software   for graphic documentation, as well as recent examples of application. The issue of cu           stomization of CAD is discussed by Giancarlo Buzzanca and from an applied point of view by the case studies of Marcella Orru/Corinna Ranzi and Simon Warrack. The papers of Elena Murariu/Florian Petrescu and Rafal Szambelan provide more field experience and trials using a combination of CAD and GIS. Details about the information technology applied to two of the most prestigious mural painting conservation projects of the last 20 years are presented by Filippo Petrignani for the Sistine Chapel and by Stefano Casciu, Giuseppe A. Centauro and Massimo Chimenti for the murals by Piero della Francesca at Arezzo. Rolf-Jurgen Grote, together with Annette Hornschuch and Jurgen Heckes, convey their experience with establishing a regional wall painting database, and describe the diagnostic possibilities offered by multispectral analysis. The issue of creating 3-D models and of using them as a basis for the input of various documentation formats is developed by the contribution of Robin Letellier and by the joint papers of Maurizio Forte, Angela Bizzarro and Stefano and Alessandro Tilia and of Luca Menci, Francesca Ceccaroni and Paolo Salonia.

With the intention of creating a common language for the seminar, a draft terminology was circulated amongst paper authors in view of the preparation of their contributions for the pre-prints. This terminology – given in Chapter 28: Glossary of terms used for GraDoc – provides draft definitions of some of the most arbitrary terms relating to documentation principles and methods and of some key terms used in computer technology. It is important to stress that this terminology is merely a working document and does not pretend to be anything more than this. The difficult task of creating a possibly multi-lingual terminology relating to conservation documentation would be well beyond the scope of this project.

The circulation of pre-prints prior to the meeting made it possible to reduce the time for presentation of papers, leaving ample room for discussion. A transcription of the discussions that followed each paper is part of this publication.’ We hope that this transcription, apart from providing additional information and clarifications, will give our readers- a feeling of the debate and the atmosphere during these intense and highly productive days.

About half of the available time was dedicated to interactive working-group sessions with the goal of developing a Framework Document, which would eventually provide the basis for the production of guidelines for graphic documentation of mural paintings. Three working groups were established, each dealing with a different problem area.

To facilitate discussion, a previously developed list of relevant issues was provided which was modified and adapted by the working groups during a first session. Another essential document for discussion was the summary of a questionnaire on Condition Recording in

the Field of Wall Painting Conservation, carried out in 1997 by Lorinda Wong as part of her postgraduate diploma dissertation on this theme accomplished at the Wall Painting Department of the Courtauld Institute of Art, London.’

One working group had the task of analyzing the function of documentation in mural painting conservation and the specific function of graphic documentation, asking questions such as: Why do we document? What types and levels of information should be documented? Who produces documentation? Who uses the documentation? How can graphic documentation be used as a management and monitoring tool?

The second group analysed the graphic documentation process, including technical issues such as planning, data collection and data organization.

Some of the questions discussed were: Should graphic documentation be standardized? What are the pros and cons of different types of base maps? How can/should curved surfaces be represented in 2-D output? How can we reduce the loss of accuracy from the initial record through the documentation process to the final version?

The third working group, the so-called `Techno Group,’ dealt with the use of new technologies. This group concentrated on the pros and cons of using computer-aided graphic documentation and relational databases. Other issues covered cost-effectiveness, and the role of the documentation specialist, as well as the knowledge and skills required. The working group also tried to critically compare software in current use and to provide an overview of recent developments and future trends.

Four half days were definitely not enough for finalizing a document that would reflect the often controversial opinions that were expressed. Following the seminar, an email distribution list was established amongst participants in order to continue the discussion and to further develop the documents drafted by the three working groups. The results published here are neither guidelines nor a framework document, but rather a discussion paper for continued debate with the participation of a broader segment of the international conservation community.’ GraDoc was not a point of arrival but hopefully the beginning of a series of initiatives at national, regional and/or international level, which eventually might lead to an agreement on principles and practices in documentation of mural paintings and related architectural surfaces. Perhaps the same information technologies, which are offering new possibilities in conservation documentation, will allow us to achieve this by using innovative ways of communicating and sharing our thoughts.

Werner Schmid

October 2000

1 Article 16 of the International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites (Venice Charter), 1964.

2 MPC, the international course on the conservation of mural paintings was first organized in 1968. Since then it has been attended by more than 600 conservation professionals from more than 60 countries, representing an important international reference for continuing professional development.

3 See: Selective survey of existing guidelines in conservation documentation, Chapter 23. See: Selected bibliography on computer-aided documentation, given on the CD-ROM.

4 1″ edition in French: La Conservation des Peintures Murales, Bologna: Editrice Compositori, 1977. 2^d edition in English: Conservation of Wall Paintings, London: Butterworth, 1984. 3′ edition in Romanian: Conservarea Picturilor Murale, Bucharest: Meridiane Publishing House, 1986. 4th edition in Italian: La Conservazione delle Pitture Murali, Bologna: Editrice Compositori, 1999.

5 For list of seminar particpants see Chapter 29.

6 Please note that the aim of publishing this CD-ROM was to accompany and expand on the contents of papers by the same authors. It is meant as an integral part of this publication and not as a separate product.

7 See: Transcription of discussions following paper presentations, Chapter 25.

8 See: Survey on condition recording , Chapter 27.

9 See: Results of working group activities, Chapter 24.